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About Me…

Hello readers πŸ™‚

My name is Isobelle and I am 38 years old. I am currently self-employed and trying to get the work/life balance to enable me to spend as much time as possible with my children.

I live with my 3 amazing children age 14, 13 and 1. I am in no doubt they will feature heavily in this blog as we navigate the world living as a person with an invisible illness, and at times how it feels for them to live with someone with an invisible illness.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 2 and Generalised Anxiety Disorder many years ago and have been living with them ever since. I try not to medicate as the drugs are so hardcore they knock you into a somnolent state that has left me unable to function properly as a parent.

I have struggled with relationships my entire life. These include family, romantic and friendships. Being unable to form lasting relationships is a theme throughout my entire life and probably my biggest challenge and hurdle in life. I will no doubt share my trials and tribulations of dating as an over thinker to add a bit of hilarity to the content!

I want to help to break the stigma so that other people suffering don’t have to live with the feeling of shame that I did for many years. I want to show that there is a life with a long term invisible illness. I spent many years thinking I was difficult and a problem; being continually rejected. I want anyone suffering in this way to know you are not alone and you can live a fulfilled life.

I refuse to be silenced anymore, I have found my voice and I am determined to use it! I am doing this for my children. They are truly my biggest achievement in life and the reason why I am here πŸ™‚

What I Can’t Unsee

Why do men send dick pics? This is a genuine question that needs an answer!

I mentioned in another post a couple of weeks ago I’d had a good date and we were going to arrange another. Well, he had gone a bit quiet on me, so I deleted his number and thought not a lot more of it. I deleted his number as then it stops me sending a message when I am feeling low or having a moment of self doubt asking what was wrong with me. I feel after just a date I don’t really need a reason. On to the next one!

Anyway, he got in touch again a few days ago and asked me out for another drink. I was slightly wary as he did leave it a week between texts, so I’m not convinced by his intentions. He seems to be saying the right things, but I have a feeling it’s a well rehearsed routine.

We have a short chat over text and after thinking he has reeled me back in, he seems to forget we were going to meet for a drink and sends me a message asking me to give him a blow job. Seems my hunch was right! I delete the message and get on with my weekend. It’s frustrating men do this, but I have self respect and morals and am not going to spend a second date feeling cheap and sordid. I know I deserve more than that from a man I am looking to date. Clearly he is only looking for fun and isn’t too bothered who he gets it from.

This morning rolled round, I was taking my eldest son to the dentist when my phone pings. It’s him again. Clearly not able to take no for an answer! I look at my phone, and he has done the very thing that pisses me off the most from a man I barely know… he has sent a dick pic. Along with another request for a blow job.

Can I first ask, how many women when they receive these texts go Wow! That really changed my mind – I’ll be straight over! I would like to think none. He has already made it very clear he is selfish as all he wants is a women to gratify him sexually. He hasn’t even mentioned me. But more than that, I am angry that he feels it acceptable to send me a lewd picture when I have made it clear I am not interested. All it tells me is he thinks I’m an easy target that will feel grateful for the male attention and do whatever he asks!

I did respond. I sent a message saying that not only did I now have no respect for him, I also had no wish to see him again. Ever. And with that I deleted his number.

The thing is, this is not the first time this has happened. Nor the second or third. This is something that happens a lot and I have no idea why men do it! A cock is not that aesthetically pleasing, so why would I want to see a stranger’s?! Why would anyone send someone they have only met in the flesh for a few hours a nude? Once it’s sent it’s out there forever. Does that not bother them?

I am no prude. I have enjoyed a sexy snap when I am with someone. But that’s very different. That’s someone I trust and am with sexually. If I haven’t seen it in the flesh, I certainly don’t want to receive a snap of it… and I can’t think that anyone would.

A Child’s Perspective

As I come to terms with my mental health and learn to understand it, I think about the impact it must have on my children.

I’m general, we have a very living and open home life. They are my absolute world, I make sure they know it. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, when living in a single parent household and not having contact with any other family, to understand and deal with the bad days.

When I have a really bad day, it is all about me. I am struggling just to survive and stay alive. My inner voice is so loud ‘you are a failure, no one likes you, you are messing up your children, the world would be better if you weren’t here, just end it all’.

I take myself off these days. I let the children watch films, play on electronics, eat pizza for tea. I undo all the hard work of parenting and break all the rules. When they were younger they didn’t notice so much, they enjoyed these days. Now they are aware it means Mummy is having a bipolar moment.

My eldest 2 are teenagers now. I know my daughter in particular can find it hard when I have a really bad day. My eldest son is ASD, life is black and white. I live with an illness, he doesn’t need to understand it. But he doesn’t like it that I’m more shouty and irrational than normal. I hate myself for being like it. The guilt is off the scale. I don’t feel I will ever forgive myself for not parenting as well on these days. I over compensate at other times with gifts or attention to try and make up for it. I’m not sure it helps. How can you make up for being emotionally numb one day?

I feel very guilty for my reactions to small things when I’m not feeling well. My daughter will try so hard to do things in the house to make my life easier. I in turn feel guilty she is having to help, so instead of being as grateful as I should be, it can come out as angry. I’m not angry with her. I’m angry with myself for not holding it together.

I would never end my life and leave my children. I couldn’t allow them to feel that rejection. I do sometimes feel they would be better off without me, they could have a better family etc. I also know that at the ages of 13 and 14 that losing their Mum, feeling they weren’t enough to keep their Mum here, would utterly destroy them for life. I can sometimes feel angry I have to be here. I want to escape my own mind forever.

This is not a daily thought process. My children bring me joy each and every day. They give me a purpose and make me smile. I didn’t know what love was until I had them. They are the reason I am here and the reason I will fight to always be here.

Mental health is a fight and a battle. For me it highlights all me inadequacies and makes me feel like a failure. When people compliment the bond with my children, I can pity my children for having me to have that bond with.

A child’s home is their source of comfort and stability. How can it be so when they can at times feel worry about their only parent? I feel extremely guilty that my children ever have to worry about me. We don’t have a conventional life. I do feel my children have missed out on certain elements of childhood as a result. A child shouldn’t have to worry about their parent’s mood. They shouldn’t have to tiptoe around and not want to cause any parent any distress. They are children.

The only positive is that they don’t sweat the small stuff. They don’t get worked up about a bad exam grade, a fall out with friends or name calling. They have seen the bigger picture of life and it’s water off a duck’s back to them. But should it be? Surely they should be still worrying about the little things and not aware that in the grand scheme of life they are trivial as they have seen so much more.

Many children grow up with a parent that suffers from a mental health condition. They also normally have a second parent to shield them from the realities of mental health. Mine don’t. It is just us. When I have a bad day, I feel I have completely failed and let them down. That then reinforces me negative inner voice screaming at me YOU’RE A BAD MUM and makes me feel even worse.

Mental health is invisible. It is so hard to explain it to the young mind. I feel truly blessed every single day to have my children. They are amazing and make me smile each and every day. I wish I knew how to prepare them for life with me. I wish society had been more open and accepting of mental health when they were younger.

Most importantly, I wish my mental health didn’t impact on them. Sadly it does. I hope and pray every day they never go through the same mental battles so learn to understand it first hand.

Worry Worm

Some days, like today, I am eaten up by worry and a sick feeling of impending doom.

Sometimes I have reason to worry. Others, like today, I don’t.

I will check on my children sleeping just to make sure they are still breathing. I will make sure the house is tidy and clean just in case I have a last minute visitor. I don’t know why I’m worrying, so I try to find reasons. If I’ve been unwell, I’ll be convinced it’s because I am on death’s door.

It makes me feel sick to my stomach. How can I make it better or resolve it if I don’t know the source of my worry? It then links to my paranoia. I will become paranoid that my worry must have a reason and a source. Something must be going wrong and my brain is telling me to find what it is; hence the worry.

It’s always irrational; how can you worry about something that you don’t know is happening? To worry you must be dealing with something real. You need a source. When there isn’t one the worry turns to panic and paranoia. Why am I feing like this? There has to be a reason!

When I reflect, I am able to accept that there isn’t always a feeling for my worry. It’s a branch of my anxiety, just like my paranoia. Reflecting happens after the event. It doesn’t help at the time.

So I will sit here this evening anxiously worrying about something that doesn’t exist. I will feel my heart rate increase and my senses heighten. I will feel a panic attack is round the corner. I will think about every person I know and rack my brains to think if I have done something wrong to somebody. I will try my best to find a source for my worry. If I could find that then I could deal with it, I could relax.

We know Iwon’t find my source of worry – nor peace – tonight. There isn’t a source. It’s my irrational brain working overtime.

Mum Guilt

Why is it that being a parent brings irrational guilt with it? That guilt can then trigger my low mood as it kickstarts my inner voice. Wouldn’t it be nice to not feel guilty just for one day? Why do we feel so much pressure to be the perfect Mum? What even is the perfect Mum?

Let me tell you just some of the occasions this week when I have felt Mum guilt.

Today I gave my 14 month old some wotsits. I then spent the rest of the day feeling like a terrible mother for feeding a toddler a few crisps. So why would I give them to him when I knew it would make me feel bad? I make most of my children’s meals from scratch, but then there are days when I thankfully find a pizza in the freezer much to the children’s delight. Why do we feel guilty when doing something that they may actually enjoy?

My daughter has to walk to the school bus even when the weather is bad. I feel extremely guilty about this. I should be able to get my arse in gear and take her there. At 7:15 in the morning however I am trying to negotiate how to grab a shower before my middle child leaves for school. Getting one after, with a 14 month old, is nigh on impossible.

My daughter’s friends teased her for wearing cotton leggings to the gym. I felt guilty I hadn’t foreseen this and gotten her proper gym gear. It was her first session. On reflection, her friends should be the ones feeling bad for being critical about how someone is dressed. It really upset her and made her feel bad which heightened my guilt.

Money is a huge source of guilt. I feel guilty if I can’t afford things, and even guiltier if I spend money on myself. Having my nails done is something I felt so guilty about spending money on, when I could spend the money on my children instead, that I stopped having them done.

I feel guilty every time I pop out (shops, gym, school run) and leave one of the older children with the baby. After all, he’s not their responsibility. I should be his sole carer and not put that burden on them. The fact they say they want to look after him seems irrelevant to my guilty feeling.

I feel guilty for sometimes wanting time to myself in the evenings and shooing the older 2 to their rooms for the evening. It just gets to a point where I need to relax in my own company and not talk to anyone for a bit. I always feel extremely guilty about that.

I feel guilty when I enjoy time away from them. It’s as if I feel I should only enjoy time with them. I feel guilty for dating and searching for someone outside of them. I don’t want them to think they’re not enough. They are more than enough. I just sometimes need some time out and to be me. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilty for it.

I probably feel the most guilty if I do nothing when the baby naps. I feel it’s wasted time and I should be doing household chores, prepping meals, washing etc. I don’t feel I should be able to sit down, relax and watch half an hour of trashy TV. Especially in the day.

I feel guilty my children have to live with a parent that has a mental health disorder and anxiety. This chokes me up so much. I feel guilty they don’t have a ‘normal’ upbringing. I feel guilty my anxieties can stop us doing things or changing plans.

I feel guilty that I am their only parent. I feel it is my fault. Maybe if I were a better or easier person their fathers would be involved. The same goes for my family downing me too. They got rejected too by association.

I feel guilty when the baby cries in the night in case he wakes one of the older 2. At times I have put him in my bed to avoid this happening.

Then I feel guilty for breaking the baby’s routine and putting him in my bed.

It’s never-ending. I love my children to pieces. I would be lost without them. So why do I do things that make me feel guilty and as if I have failed one or more of them?

The answer to this is a mystery to me.

A Time for Liberation

Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I’m back there again. I’m 7 years old and standing at the side of the playground looking in as everyone plays on. I know I want them to notice me, I know I don’t belong. No one notices me. No one feels my pain.

Throughout my entire life I have felt different. I’ve never had the sense of belonging that others take for granted. I knew my mother and grandmother loved me, although I didn’t feel that they liked me that often. I certainly didn’t feel loved by other family members. I felt I was an embarrassment to them and they were ashamed of me.

As a result of this, and my ongoing undiagnosed mental health, I was a horrendous teenager. I was caught smoking, self-harming, drinking, drugs, making myself sick… the list goes on. Instead of addressing these issues my parents pretended they weren’t happening. They would scream at me behind closed doors, yet never get actual help for me. This made me feel a lot of shame. I felt I was failing as a daughter and sister. Even my family didn’t like me. They said as much.

I am now the mother of 2 teenagers and I would NEVER ignore this kind of behaviour. I would never trivialise my children’s problems or pretend they aren’t happening. I would be open and support them as best as I could and get them professional help when needed.

Needless to say I left home at 16.

I then had a somewhat strained relationship with my parents until I had my eldest children, but after that my Mother and I grew closer. She got to know and understand the real me. She could sense when I struggled and offer me help. She would often praise me for bringing up 2 children on my own without any paternal input. We grew close and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. She learnt about my condition and how to help me. We still never talked about the past.

My Mum passed away 6 years ago age 58. I felt the loss and hole that she’d left in our lives immensely. I didn’t think at one point we’d recover. But we did. We chose survival.

Meanwhile, my Father’s recovery was more complex. He became an angry and bitter man. It wasn’t enjoyable spending time with him, and he showed no interest in our lives. I still tried and would invite him over, listen to his latest rant etc, make him dinner, host Christmas. He never asked about me or the children, he never wanted to know if we were struggling. He felt it was his grief and his alone. I didn’t feel I could burden him with my own, I didn’t feel I could tell him how my anxiety had been triggered as he hated my mental health being brought up. He made it clear I had brought shame on the family my whole life. Well I was about to do it all over again.

Late 2017 I found myself pregnant and on my own. Again. I had ended the relationship before I found out I was pregnant (unbeknown to me he had a lifelong drug habit – I ended things when it all came out) so I was happy to be a single parent again. I am quite hardened with relationships of the heart. I was excited as I had yearned for another child for years. I felt so blessed to be starting this new chapter of my life.

I messaged my brother, sister and Father letting them know my happy news. My Father’s reply was as follows ‘I will not support this at all. All your children will end up in care and the older two’s education will suffer.’ And that was that. That is the last proper contact I had with my father and siblings.

As you can imagine, this triggered low and manic episodes

I felt terrified. I was the only family my soon to be 3 children had. How would I cope? I was a living nightmare and train crash. I failed at everything. How would I ever cope and survive on my own? My Father’s words would echo daily around my head All your children will end up in care. All your children will end up in care. All your children will end up in care.

I felt a lot of anger, bitterness and hatred towards my Father. He was supposed to love me unconditionally. He had been in my life for 36 years; how could he just leave it? If he couldn’t love me, I knew I was damaged beyond repair and that no one would ever want me. I felt so angry at how much his actions had hurt my older children, and how when my baby was born he failed to even acknowledge it. My hatred grew and grew. Until I realised I was getting more and more bitter. I reminded myself of someone. Him.

That realisation shocked me into making changes. Yes, I had my inner voice still going on at me, but I was able to over ride it. I had 3 happy, beautiful and intelligent children. How could that be a fluke? I wasn’t failing as much as I thought after all!

Once I acknowledged this, I started to revisit my childhood and how I’d been made to feel just for simply being me. I had been made to feel ashamed of who I was by the people who should have loved me the most. I had let people treat my badly (all my romantic relationships have involved me putting in the most effort, time and money) and I had always had friendships and relationships where I would do the lion’s share of everything. In friendships, I would constantly babysit for friends or run their children around, but if I asked for assistance back they wouldn’t help. I had unwittingly been choosing relationships with people that were unsuitable as I thought that by doing things for them they might like me. Obviously it had the opposite effect as when they finally left my life it reinforced my deep rooted theory that nobody liked me. My self esteem was rock bottom and I had no self worth. I could finally link this into how I had felt growing up. I was allowing everyone to treat me the way my family had.

When you hit rock bottom, there’s only one way to go. And that’s up. I was a single Mummy to 3 amazing children living in a new town. I would be making new friendships and it was up to me how people viewed me. I chose to fight. I made a conscious decision to lose the feeling of shame I had carried around for years like an albatross and establish effective friendships with people who could actually like me and want to spend time with me.

It sounds silly what a revelation this was; I was finally free!

When you change the way you view yourself, it changes the way that other people view you. It is not an easy process. Far from it. I knew I had to do it for my children. How could I teach them about self love if I wasn’t preaching it?

It has been a long and hard road. Everyone here knows me as Izzy with 3 children. They know my mother is dead and that I have no family contact. What they don’t know when I’m giving a bit of back story that it is a battle I’m still fighting. The rejection still reduces me to tears, and I don’t think it will ever stop hurting. They don’t realise that each and every day I am building myself up to become someone to be proud of. They don’t know the panic attacks I would have before attending new groups or that I would go home and analyze my behaviour and chastise myself for talking too much, interrupting or laughing too loudly. All classic anxiety symptoms that come across as carefree and confident.

They don’t know how lonely my life is. The daytime is full of playdates and work. But the evenings can be arduous. Loneliness is a very dangerous thing for an overthinker. The boredom can kick in and I will tell myself I’m lonely because no one likes me. Maybe that will always be the case. I have no one to share my children’s milestones with. I have no one to love my children with me.

What won’t always be there is the shame I once felt. I am now proud to say I HAVE BIPOLAR. I live with mental health, yes it affects my personality, but that’s me and who I am. I wouldn’t know who I was without it. Yes, this is a positive post. I’m also not naive enough to think that I am now cured. I know these feelings will come to the forefront a lot, but I don’t have a constant in my life reinforcing them.

I feel liberated, I feel I have the chance to start life all over again. A life without feeling constant rejection and shame and being an embarrassment to others. No, not everyone will like me. But that’s life.

So thank you Dad, thank you for forcing me to free myself of the feelings you made me feel about myself for so long. Thank you for making me see it’s not my fault I am like this. But let me be very clear. I will never forgive you. Not any of you. I will never allow you to be a part of my life. I will never allow you to hurt me again nor my children.

Miss Overthinker

One thing that I am constantly told, by well-meaning friends, is to stop overthinking situations, scenarios etc.

Well I can’t. It is that simple.

If I could stop overthinking then I gladly would as it is one of the primary causes of unhappiness for me, but my brain never switches off. No amount of distraction or even meditating helps. It’s something I’ve had to learn to live with. If overthinking burnt calories I would be a size 0 and eating fast food every day without gaining weight. I think you get the picture.

I now accept I overthink, so instead of working on not doing so (about as likely as Boris Johnson taking a vow of celibacy) I have instead taken to work on the result of my overthinking and how I manage my reaction to overthinking. I shall give 2 examples of how I have implemented this over just the last few days.

As the mother of a one year old I have been doing the baby/toddler group circuit over the last year and made friends. They’re not established or secure friendships and are still vulnerable, so I know I have to tread carefully and not freak people out. I heard through general chit chat with other mummy friends that one of the mum’s was having a book party the following day. When I heard this my mind reacted immediately, it was screaming at me WHY HAVEN’T I BEEN INVITED!!! And then the darker voice came too and added it’s own thoughts on the situation I told you nobody really likes you. They only pretend to like you. They don’t want you going to their houses. Crazy lady.

In these situations most people wouldn’t get that worked up about a book party they weren’t invited to that they didn’t even necessarily want to go to. They may have been pleased not to have to go. Not me! My brain is going at it trying to establish what I said and when and what I have done specifically to make this person HATE me so much. It eats me up. I feel embarrassed and ashamed again that I’v let myself down and nobody likes me.

After 2 days of literally beating my mind up about this trivial situation, I decide to be proactive. I do something I haven’t done before. In a non-confrontational way I message the mummy friend asking her if I have done anything to upset or offend her. This is a huge turn around for me. I normally in this situation block people from my life as I am so convinced they hate me that I can’t bear to discuss it with them. Well guess what? She doesn’t hate me!

She replied instantly apologising. She had organised the party and attendees through a group chat for all the local mummies. I am not in the group chat after removing myself after a similar incident a couple of months ago so never received the invite. I managed to resolve a situation and only waste 2 days overthinking! It was also good to say you’re wrong this time to my inner voice.

Another example this week involves a date. I do enjoy a date; my crazy brain thrives on the uncertainty!

We had a great date; best one in a few years. I didn’t think the second date would even be a conversation as chat flowed freely, we flirted and I could sense he liked me. But that’s too easy for an overthinker.

We had texted after the date, and I brazenly typed So when’s date 2? X

No reply.

That’s it. He wasn’t interested. He doesn’t like you. Why would he like you? What’s even to like? My inner voice mocks me. I try to fight back at it. We had chemistry. You can’t fake chemistry…. can you? But why would he like you! My inner voice says on repeat. I resign myself to the fact he’s not going to text. Previously I would have sent a message asking if he’s OK, did I do something wrong etc, but this time I hold back. No one likes keen after a date. If anything, if they like you, they play it cool. If they like you? As if! Mocks my inner voice again.

And then he texts πŸ™‚

And yes, his text involved arranging another date. Happy days!

So what I have learnt this week, is that I am an overthinker and I also over analyze everything. And that’s OK as I can’t change it. What I can change is my reaction. I am in control of being able to resolve situations without them blowing up and causing a major over reaction by me.

This has been liberating on so many levels. I have control.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Some days adulting is really hard. You don’t want to get out of bed, your negative voice is shouting at the top of its lungs, you are over analyzing every conversation you’ve ever had and your brain is rapid cycling faster than concorde. These days are tough enough on there own… but then you throw in the mix children!

I don’t know about you, but I have always been really open with my children about my mental health. I did this consciously to enable me to explain to them that if I was low and seemed in a bad mood it wasn’t about them. I’ve also always made schools etc aware when I am in a bad low so they can offer support when needed. this doesn’t eliminate the guilt I feel on a regular basis for neither adulting or parenting as well as I want to some days.

As I found out to the detriment of my children’s wellbeing, this is sadly not always a good thing. My eldest children were age around 7 and 9 and I was having a particularly low and difficult period following the death of my mother. She had been the only family member that supported my illness, losing her left me very alone as both a parent and a daughter, anyone would have struggled in that situation. I don’t think we talk enough about the consequences of losing a parent in society. I digress as that is a story for a different day!

I confided in a couple of parents that I was struggling with my mental health and that I have Bipolar Disorder. They were lovely to me and offered me support, invited me for chats etc. I opened up and told them everything about my illness and how it affected me. What I hadn’t realised (or even considered) is that not all people are kind or understanding. A wolf in sheep’s clothing is an apt description of these women. They contacted all the parents of the children in my children’s classes and told them not to play with my children. My children came home upset telling me that no one would play with them and they couldn’t understand why. It caused a lot of distress at an already distressing time. Birthday party invites were revoked and playdates cancelled.

After a few weeks I arranged a meeting with the Headmistress. It transpired that my mental health had been ‘leaked’ to all parents and that I posed a danger to children due to the illness I have. The school playground Mums I had talked to, trusted and confided in had used my illness against me to make my misery even worse. The headmistress suggested that due to the animosity towards me I should drop my children to school late and collect them early to avoid running into any other parents. Apparently, back in 2011, this was how we should deal with mental health issues! I was appalled. Internally I felt a complete failure as a mother. My children were suffering and being punished because of my illness. An illness that would never go away. They were treated like outcasts, as if they had done something wrong. They were innocent.

Back then I wasn’t very good at standing up for myself when it came to my mental health. Due to my family, aside from my mother, having no understanding of mental health I was ashamed and embarrassed of it and felt that this was an acceptable way for me to be treated. However, why should my children suffer due to my shortcomings? After a couple of weeks I made the decision to move my children to a different school. Upon leaving the headmistress had a meeting with me and advised me not to tell people about my mental health issues in the future. This is when I finally found my voice.

If I had a physical disability then assistance would be given. Because my illness is invisible then people would rather not talk about it and pretend it’s not there. Well it is there, it is something I have to live with each and every day. Why should I be ashamed because my brain is wired differently? Yes, that’s right, it is wired differently. I will never be able to think ‘normally’. I will always overanalyze, overthink, have a negative voice and feel that I am constantly being judged. But do you know what I have learnt? That it’s OK to not be OK. My daughter (she’s 14 now) always says being normal is over rated, it’s just a setting on a washing machine. And she’s right.

I won’t be silenced by a mob of bored, bitchy housewives in a playground. I will continue to be open and honest about my mental health and I hope by doing so I stop others feeling alone.

We may not all be normal. But if that gaggle of playground mums are classed as normal, I think I’d rather stick to being me.

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